PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... the arid, intense melancholy of a Hopper painting ... particularly passages written in Eileen’s voice, Rooney sheds the stiff pelt of scene-building and attains a clarity reminiscent of Rachel Cusk’s in her Outline trilogy ... is carefully formless and its characters are fluent in our lingua franca of systemic collapse, that neoliberal patter of learned helplessness in the face of larger capital and labor systems ... kind of a vibey omniscience that proceeds by way of spare descriptions. Rooney writes scenes as though she had to type them out on a TI-89. Nouns and verbs. This can be lovely, as when she describes empty rooms or the touch of someone’s hand on a wrist. Her writing about sex is taut and direct. It’s a narrative style I associate with the films of Andrew Haigh and Joanna Hogg, two great visual poets of social anxiety and reticence ... Rooney’s dialogue is frequently perfect, so perfect that it occasionally turns into a flaw. That is, Rooney’s characters speak as though they’re in a ’90s rom-com or else the adaptation of an Evelyn Waugh novel ... at times it feels like a hammy line reading. Much like their compatriots—narrators from novels by Sheila Heti, Ben Lerner and Andrew Martin—Rooney’s characters chatter about the pointlessness of feeling that the world is too far gone to do anything about even as they seem to agree that our problems tower high above our heads ... In my less charitable moments, it felt as though we’ve reached a point in our culture where the pinnacle of moral rigor in the novel form is an overwhelmed white woman in a major urban center sighing and having a thought about the warming planet or the existence of refugees ... I found the novel’s defensiveness about the moral dubiousness of its aesthetic project kind of charming, but also frustrating. Yet, for all that, Beautiful World, Where Are You is Rooney’s best novel yet. Funny and smart, full of sex and love and people doing their best to connect.
Thora Hjorleifsdottir, tr. Meg Matich
RaveVulture[A] brilliantly uneasy new novel ... Hjörleifsdóttir has a poet’s sense of compression and scale, but a prosaic unwriterliness ... There is a mordant humor here. One feels, around Lilja’s earnestness, the author’s impeccable timing ... Magma is profane, funny, and uncomfortably honest about what happens when we substitute someone’s image of us for self-knowledge.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"In an era whose ascendant short-story practitioners lean into high-concept experiments of genre and form, Emma Cline represents something of a throwback. The 10 stories that constitute her first collection, Daddy, are almost classical in structure—you won’t find a fragmentary collage, list or screenplay among them. Though she’s not one for a sudden, curious departure of voice or dissolution of the fourth wall, Cline has an unnerving narrative proprioception, and her stories have the clean, bright lines of modernist architecture ... As for her style, she seems to eschew the telegraphic mode made popular by writers like Sally Rooney or Rachel Cusk for something at once direct and musical. Cline’s idiom is earnestness punctuated by millennial cool—but nothing too fussy, everything in just the right place ... The aesthetic pleasure of Cline’s writing is anesthetizing. So much so that one could conceivably read these stories with the same drugged passivity with which one shuffles through a lifestyle catalog. But that would be a mistake ... Cline is an astonishingly gifted stylist, but it is her piercing understanding of modern humiliation that makes these stories vibrate with life ... the characters shift uncomfortably through the beautifully appointed shoe box dioramas of their lives, aware at once of their own insignificance and also of their desire for prominence. They ask if anything matters as though nothing does, and yet hope to be contradicted. But perhaps we all do. Perhaps, in these brilliant stories, that is the most daring and human thing of all.\
RaveElectric LiteratureIt is difficult to guess how these stories end or to classify them as funny or sad, uplifting or depressing, smart or silly, etc. The truth is that each of these stories is all of those things and much more ... The way that Beach has used his remarkable, clear voice to fully render weather and architecture and nature, has made it at once invisible and yet so striking.